Book Review: The Power of Habits

The writer is a lawyer working with Accountability Lab
By: Kainat Saif

A man is a product of his habits

This is the one liner summary of this book written by Charles Duhigg

A habit is a routine which you follow daily so it is inculcated in your mind. Habit can be a good one or bad, – or both. According to this Book, Habit revolves around “Cue, Routine and Reward”. However, first You need to pay close attention to your habits. Repeated things set patterns in your mind. In the start, You will make decisions consciously; at later stages they will become your habit and your brain will require less energy to work on it. To put it into simple words, It is safe to say your conscious decisions will lead you to a stage where they will become Automatic.

Habits are powerful and delicate. You can make habits. Unlearning, learning and relearning is easy, that said you will need to put conscious effort in the beginning.

In the book there were plenty of examples, to mention one here i would quote an example of a football coach “Tony Dungy”, he maintained: “Champions don’t do extraordinary things but they do ordinary things with extra concentration. He instills the right habits into the players to mold their reaction to things automatically. As it requires less effort and lets your brain do the job in a fraction of seconds. The team followed the habits they have learned to ace the match every time.

A better way to change habits is to learn alternate routines. Treat yourself with distraction, a useful distraction. “Habit reversal training” is a Golden rule of habit change. By inserting a new routine into your life you can change almost any habit, not matter how difficult it seems. When you recognize your existing habits and accept new routines – that’s where the magic begins. As we know habits can not be eradicated but replaced. If we keep the same cue and same reward a new routine can be inserted. Having said that people must believe change is possible.

This book also suggests that most people started to change their habits out of some tragedy or any specific incident which is their turning point. A time when people finally stand up for themselves and say “I could not tolerate the status quo any longer. I need to change now”

There is another term introduced in the book “key habit”. This is attacking one specific habit and watching the changes ripple in life pattern. For example when you start going to the gym you will automatically start eating healthy, will quit smoking to maintain health, and will start setting time for your sleep and other chores as well. So, you see when people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in lives, Often unknowingly.
“Small wins” shall be celebrated, more often than not they help you to flourish and direct you towards big wins. Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

The book also talks about a “marshmallow experiment”. The marshmallow test is one of the most famous pieces of social-science research: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her/him that she/he can have a second one if she/he can go 15 minutes without eating the first one, and then leave the room. Whether she’s patient enough to double her payout is supposedly indicative of a willpower that will pay dividends down the line, at school and eventually at work. Passing the test is, to many, a promising signal of future success. Not to mention will power is learnable skill and it can be taught as many subjects in the school. Will power is not just a skill it’s a muscle. So, one needs to be very careful in prioritizing the tasks. If you want to do something which requires willpower like doing an exercise or going for a run after a work you have to conserve your willpower muscle during the day.
Will power becomes a habit by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.

All of us are simply bundles of habits.

This book is a complete guide to remake your habits. I personally developed a habit of reading and after getting done with the book in a span of 30 days feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment was a reward to me which encouraged me to start a new one.

The writer is a lawyer, she can be reached at [email protected]